Author - Nancy Minicozzi

Is it October already?

Ferris wheel and other carnival rides moving in a blur

When my podcasting partner, Lisa Nowakowski, aka NowaTechie, and I saw the application to become Social Media Champs for CUE last April, we were excited by the possibility of expanding our audience and getting to share what we do with a wider group of educators. We were also eager to exchange ideas and resources with other CUE members. When we got the call that we had been chosen to be Social Media Champs, we were over the moon.

The past six months have been a whirlwind. We were busy, that’s for sure. On top of our teaching/coaching duties, every week we posted an episode of the TLC Ninja podcast and an article to the OnCUE blog. Was it a lot of work? You bet. But it was worth it. We got the chance to write about tools and techniques we know and love for the CUE community, and we got to explore others we were curious about.

Working with the CUE team was an awesome experience and we loved every minute of it. Are we sad our six month gig is coming to end? Of course. But we are happy that someone else will get to take the reins and enjoy what we got to experience. Applications are open until Oct. 31 at http://blog.cue.org/smc/. Apply to be the next Social Media Champ. Take the risk. You’ll be glad you did.

As this is our last post for the OnCUE blog, Lisa and I would like to take a moment to say thank you to CUE for this opportunity. It’s been a blast!

TLC Ninja: Brent Coley Connects with Us All

The TLC Ninja team recently had the pleasure of learning how Brent Coley leverages technology to reach students, families, and the community. He had lots of advice on how administrators and teachers can connect with parents right where they are – on their devices – to get their school’s message across. You may be surprised how easy it really is.

Get Off to a Good Start with Story Starters

Person sitting at a desk and writing

We all know that the more kids write, the better writers they are, but sometimes it’s hard to get started. Here are some story prompt generators that will make getting started easy and fun.

Scholastic Story Starters generates writing prompts for grades K-6 that include direction on character, plot, and setting. Students choose from one of four themes (Adventure, Fantasy, Sci Fi, or “Scrambler”), then enter their first name, select their grade level, and pull the lever to get their prompt. They can spin any or all of the wheels again if they don’t like what they get. The complexity of the prompts is determined by student grade level, so upper grade students see more sophisticated suggestions than kindergarteners. Students may choose to do their writing directly on the Scholastic website, which also gives them the option to include a drawing; they can then print or download their story as a PDF. Of course, they could also do their writing anywhere they normally would: in a writing journal, in a Google doc, etc. Scholastic provides a teacher resource guide that includes a lesson plan.

If your students are older, you will want to take a look at DIY MFA’s Writer Igniter. Students can spin the wheels to generate prompts with a character, situation, and a prop, plus a photo to give them the setting. If students don’t like their prompt, they can generate a new one, but they don’t have the option of locking in any of the choices from their previous spin. The DIY MFA website also has several writing resources that your students may find useful. 

Other less flashy but equally creative story starters for older kids can be found at the Writing Exercises Random Plot Generator, where students click buttons to generate two characters, a setting, a situation, and a theme. Clicking a button again changes that element. (Note: This is a UK site and US students may not be familiar with an occasional British word, such as “registry office.”)

Looking for something even simpler? Consider the story plot generator at Big Huge Thesaurus, where each click of the button provides six unrelated opening sentences to choose from.

Happy writing!

Do you have Common Sense?

A baby exploring the keyboard on a laptop computer

You may have heard of Common Sense, but you may not be familiar with everything they offer. They are an “independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology,” and they have a plethora of completely free resources for anyone interested in ensuring that children lead safe, happy, and productive digital lives.

One of their programs, Common Sense Education, is aimed at helping students flourish by providing teachers with lesson plans and professional development. They have been offering a complete digital citizenship curriculum for grades K-12 (and yes, even kindergarteners need digital citizenship lessons) for quite some time, but they have recently updated their lessons for grades 3-5 and they are excellent. The new lessons are designed around six areas of digital literacy: digital footprint, media balance, cyberbullying, online privacy, communication, and news and media literacy; they focus on empowering students to enable them to take control of their own digital lives. The lessons are research-based and were designed in partnership with Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

In addition, Common Sense offers teachers many other tools and resources. They have ed tech ratings for tools, lesson plans, downloadable posters for your room, and the list goes on. There are resources available to help get families more involved in teaching their children to be good digital citizens and savvy consumers of digital content. Interested teachers can even earn recognition as a Common Sense Educator.

Common Sense is also behind Common Sense Media, which provides resources for parents, including ratings and recommendations for movies, television, and video games, and Common Sense Kids Action, which works with business leaders, policy makers, and others to advocate for state and federal policies that will support, protect, and nurture all children.

11 Reasons Not to Go to Fall CUE

Fall CUE logo with leaves

If you are reading this blog post, you probably know that Fall CUE, “the biggest little conference on the West Coast,” is coming up in just a few weeks. It will take place October 13 and 14 at American Canyon High School. You might be thinking about going, but this event may not be for you. Here are 11 reasons NOT to go to Fall CUE.

  1. It’s fall and you have chores to do. You would much prefer raking leaves and cleaning out your rain gutters to going to a conference.
  2. You think getting together with friends and colleagues over a glass of something lovely from Napa Valley is overrated.
  3. You have plenty of strategies to engage your students and don’t need any new ones.
  4. You’re not interested in sessions on how to incorporate AR and VR, improve your instructional coaching skills, master Google Slides, Forms, and Geo Tools, empower students while protecting their privacy, get girls into coding, or any number of other topics.
  5. Your computer already has plenty of stickers on it.
  6. You would rather read people’s tweets than meet and talk to them in person.
  7. You might look at things from a new perspective and find yourself with a crazy desire to rewrite and improve some of your lesson plans.
  8. You are very comfortable in your comfort zone, thank you. No need to break out of that rut.
  9. You can do without the jolt of energy that being in a place full of like-minded people can bring.
  10. You feel like investing in yourself and your skills is a waste of time.
  11. You don’t like fun.

If these reasons resonate with you, then, by all means, stay home. Otherwise, we will see you at Fall CUE!

TLC Ninja: Jay Salerno Empowers Students and Promotes Digital Equity

The TLC Ninja team had a great time learning how Jay Salerno empowers students by helping them grow from “TechSprouts” to “Techsperts” as they mentor peers, teachers, and community members. He shares how his district converted a sports bus into a rolling tech lab to promote digital equity and social justice, and gives tips on how you can empower your students. Be sure to check out Jay’s website to find out more – and see pictures of the students at work! We especially loved the pictures of the students taking the senior citizens on a virtual reality tour.

Teachers in Space

astronaut/teacher Joe Acaba
astronaut/teacher Joe Acaba

Astronaut/teacher Joe Acaba studies vegetable plants growing on the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

Right now, NASA is celebrating a Year of Education on the International Space Station (ISS), and two of the astronauts are former teachers. As part of this celebration, NASA has made available several STEM activities related to the ISS and its role in helping us reach Mars.

On their website at nasa.gov/stemonstation, you will find lesson plans, videos, and news, in addition to a wealth of other information for both teachers and students. Students can watch a livestream of Earth as viewed from space, learn about what research is conducted aboard the ISS, and watch the astronauts do experiments. They can also learn about the station itself and what life in space is like. They can even connect with the astronauts for live question-and-answer sessions. How cool is that?

Teachers will find Learning Launchers containing lesson plans, videos, and other resources on a variety of topics related to the ISS. Some of the titles include Robotics, Space Station and the Economy, The Brain in Space, and Under the Microscope (microbes), but there are many more to choose from if none of these appeal to you.

You can subscribe to updates on the Stem on Station website, and Twitter users can follow the hashtags #TeacherOnBoard and #stemonstation to see the latest news. Bon voyage!

OnCUE Connect

Sign up and connect to CUE members, resources, and more at OnCUE -- delivered to your inbox each day!